Aminoglycosides: List of Examples, Toxicity & Side Effects

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  • 0:01 What Is an Aminoglycoside?
  • 0:40 Risks of Aminoglycosides
  • 2:16 Effects of Toxicity
  • 3:10 Preventing Toxicity
  • 4:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Lisa Miklush

Lisa teaches pathophysiology and pharmacology in baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs and has a PhD in nursing.

Many patients receive aminoglycoside antibiotics to treat infections. In this lesson, learn the names of the different aminoglycoside antibiotics and some of the problems a patient may experience when taking one of these antibiotics.

What Is an Aminoglycoside?

An aminoglycoside is a type of very powerful antibiotic used to treat serious bacterial infections. Aminoglycosides are especially useful in treating infections caused by certain gram-negative bacteria that are responsible for infections such as meningitis, tuberculosis, and plague. The very first aminoglycoside, streptomycin, was discovered in 1944. Today there are several other aminoglycosides: amikacin, gentamicin, kanamycin, neomycin, and tobramycin.

Risks of Aminoglycosides

Receiving an aminoglycoside antibiotic can often mean the difference between life and death for some patients. But while aminoglycosides are working to kill the bad bacteria, they can also cause some serious toxic effects that can hurt the patient.

To learn about side effects and potential toxicity of aminoglycosides, let's visit Jack, a patient in the hospital who is being treated with an aminoglycoside antibiotic. Jack is in the hospital with a very bad infection. After weighing the benefits of receiving the antibiotic against potential risks, Jack's healthcare provider prescribes gentamicin. Gentamicin is a commonly used aminoglycoside, so as we learn about gentamicin, we'll learn about the other aminoglycosides, too.

During his treatment, Jack will be monitored very closely for side effects and toxicity caused by gentamicin. For example, Jack could experience an itchy rash, which is a common side effect that's usually not serious. On the other hand, Jack's kidneys and ears are very susceptible to damage from the gentamicin.

Aminoglycosides tend to concentrate in the little units inside the kidneys called nephrons. Because it can be toxic to the nephrons, the gentamicin Jack is receiving is a considered a potentially nephrotoxic antibiotic. Aminoglycosides also tend to concentrate inside the nerve responsible for hearing and balance—the eighth cranial nerve. Because aminoglycosides can damage this nerve, the gentamicin Jack is receiving is considered a potentially ototoxic antibiotic.

Effects of Toxicity

Our kidneys are important in maintaining fluid and chemical balance, so we can tell if Jack's kidneys are being damaged if we see any changes in Jack's urine or blood. Some things we'll look at include:

  • How much urine is Jack making? Is urine output different when compared with the amount of fluid he's taking in?
  • What color is Jack's urine? Is it getting lighter or darker?
  • What's in the urine? Is the kidney allowing things in the urine that are not usually found in the urine?
  • What's in the blood? Are there waste products building up in the blood that are usually eliminated by the kidneys?

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